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Book Of The Year Award > 2011 >Fifty Finest
Andrew Bee , Bridge Books

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fifty finest The author, Head of Geography at Sutton Valance School, here attempts to make a definitive summation of the finest innings played by England batsmen since the dawn of Test Cricket in 1877. A daunting prospect? Not to Andrew Bee, who embarked on the task with characteristic enthusiasm and panache.

Obviously, an objective analysis must have clear criteria to finally draw conclusions and those criteria must necessarily be subjective. Here are fourteen (count 'em) different weightings that go up to make the final 'score' and each is listed at the end of the book to demonstrate the method used. Naturally, every reader will disagree with the final rankings and one suspects that the author will be delighted if discussion and dissent spreads throughout the cricket-loving public.

The criteria are sometimes more interesting for the innings that they exclude, rather than those that make up the final 50, although Andrew helpfully includes another ten that just missed that Top 50. Weight of runs is no guarantee of inclusion, so no place for Hammond's 336, Gooch's 333, Edrich's 310 and more surprisingly, Andrew Sandham's 325. The book is dominated by knocks against teams who were ranked best, or near best in the world at the time, so innings in Ashes series tend to dominate with latterly, innings against South Africa and West Indies coming into play.

Just to throw in some oddities; Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes shared an opening partnership of 323 in the 1911/12 series, making 178 and 179, respectively but the innings are ranked at 54 and 60. Why the difference? Peter May's 285 not out against the West Indies in 1957 occupies a very high place in the book but Tom Graveney's 258, two tests later in that series doesn't make the list at all. Nice to see Cyril Washbrook's 98 recognised from the 1956 Ashes series but nothing for David Sheppard's century or Denis Compton's 94 from the same series. After all, they were all 'comeback kids.' Just one last disappointment; none of Alan Lamb's three heroic centuries against the all-conquering 1984 West Indies team are recognised.

But all the above illustrate just why the book should sell. Everyone has a different view and debate has and always will rage about which innings is the greatest. I've deliberately left the identity of the highest-ranked innings and many more out as to reveal them would spoil the point of the book. It has been noted elsewhere, that there is no summary of all the innings but my guess is that this is deliberate, to stop prospective purchasers quickly scanning a list and then replacing the book on the shelf. Very sensible. We can probably expect more books in this style covering bowling spells and the author may well have tapped into a rich vein.